Books & TV: Fungus among us

Having just spent an intensely creepy 80-something minutes watching the series premier of The Last of Us (HBO), I’m now forced to sit here and contemplate just how terrifying fungi can be. If you’re not scared, then you definitely haven’t watched this show… or read any of the books I’m about to talk about!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let’s start with The Last of Us. This show has been getting tons of hype — well deserved! For those who aren’t familiar with the history, The Last of Us started as a videogame (released in 2013) that was absolutely huge — and which is generally considered a giant step forward in gaming in terms of both graphics and storytelling. (For more on the game and its significance, read here — but note that there are spoilers for the overall storyline). I’m not a gamer, so that aspect doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but I do love a good post-apocalypse story… and this one is a doozy.

Here’s the official trailer from HBO:

Are you scared yet?

After watching the first episode, I naturally starting thinking about the scary-as-hell books I’ve read over the past several years featuring horrific fungi — and thought I’d share the case of the creeps with everyone else!

If you’re into fungal horror (or want to know what books to avoid at all costs), then check out this list. I’ve provided links to my reviews, in case you’re interested.

The Girl with All the Gifts (and the sequel, The Boy on the Bridge) by M. R. Carey:

The Girl With All the Gifts was my first exposure to zombie apocalypse via fungus, and man, was it horrifying! It’s a great story — and at the time when it was released, the marketing cleverly didn’t disclose what it was actually about. I expected a story about kids with some sort of paranormal abilities, perhaps, and instead… FUNGAL HORROR. So good…

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

This was a 2022 release, and it’s just amazing (and creep-tastic). A retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher, but with fungi! You’ll never look at a rabbit in quite the same way again.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Garcia-Moreno

I almost hesitated about including this one, since the very fact that I’m putting it here is entering into spoiler territory… but it’s a prime example of great fungus-based horror!

The Unfamiliar Garden (The Comet Cycle, #2) by Benjamin Percy

This is the 2nd book in the Comet Cycle trilogy (and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of #3!). In these books, a comet that passes close by Earth has a devastating effect on the world as we know it. The first book, The Ninth Metal, relates one aspect of the story, and here in book #2, we see an entirely different set of effects on the natural landscape, including… you guessed it… horrifying fungi! I tend to describe these books more as sci-fi than horror, although there’s plenty of ickiness too.

Those are the examples from my own bookshelves… but there’s more! If you just can’t get enough of deadly fungi, check Fangoria’s list of movies, TV episodes, and books with fungal horror plotlines.

And if you want to start on a less terrifying note, then there’s always this goodie (available via Amazon and elsewhere):

Wow, this is a cheerful post! So now that I’ve shared my selection of frightful fungal horror, I’ll ask you:

Have you read any other horror books with deadly/disgusting/horrifying fungi taking over the world (or at least a corner of it)?

Please share any recommendations… not that I need any further fuel for my nightmares.

Reading goals: Series to read in 2023

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2023 brings joy and health for one and all!

As is my annual tradition, rather than setting a bunch of reading goals that I probably won’t actually try to achieve, I prefer to limit my bookish goals to series reading. There are so many series out there that I want to get to!

I absolutely recognize that I may end up changing my mind on some or all of these, but as of now…

My priority series to read in 2023 will be:

A bunch of carry-overs from 2022:

Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky: I own two of these books, and the 3rd comes out in January. I meant to at least start these last year… hoping to do better this year!

The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir: Another carry-over. I’ve read the first book (Gideon the Ninth), and have books 2 & 3 on my shelves, ready to go!

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers – I finished the first two in 2022, and definitely plan to read the remaining two ASAP.

The Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: I read My Lady Jane in 2022, and want to read the next two in 2023.

Plus, some new additions to the list — series to start (and maybe even finish!) in 2023:

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon: My daughter recommended these to me, and so far, I haven’t had any romance series on my annual series lists.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper: This is an older fantasy series that I really should have read by this point in my life! I read the first book years ago with one of my kids, but I think it’s about time that I give the series a shot, just for me.

Regency Faerie Tales by Olivia Atwater: This series slipped past my radar, but then I started seeing a lot of positive reviews. I think I need to give these books a try.

And finally…

A couple of series that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now. Who knows? Maybe 2023 will finally be the year that I give them a try. My “maybe” series for this year are:

  • The Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn
  • Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

Are you planning to start any new series this year? If you’ve read any of the series on my list for 2023, please let me know what you thought and if you have any recommendations!

A look back: Series reading in 2022

At the start of each new year, I write a post about my intended series reading — which series I want to start, which I want to finish, and maybe even some that I want to devour all in one big reading binge.

Now that we’re at the end of December, it’s time to check back in and see if I actually accomplished any of my series reading goals for 2022.

So how did I do?

In 2022, my priority series to read were:

The Kingston Cycle trilogy by C. L. Polk:

Status: DONE! I read the trilogy straight through, and had mixed feelings about it as a whole. I liked a lot of the concepts and characters, but the continuity and worldbuilding didn’t especially work for me.

Children of Time and Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky:

Status: Nope. At the time when I wrote my post back in January, I thought this was a completed duology, but it turns out there’s a 3rd book coming out in early 2023. I really have no reason for not reading these books yet, other than juggling all the other books I wanted to read! These will go back on my series reading list for 2023.

The Expanse by James S. A. Corey:

Status: DONE! Wow. Just wow. I’d read books 1 – 5 prior to 2022, so this past year I read books 6 – 9 plus the collected stories. Fantastic series, start to finish, and I’m just sad that it’s done. Excellent storytelling with a powerful ending. A must-read series!

The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir:

Status: A little progress… I had just the first two books on my list at the start of 2022, but since then, a 3rd has been released. I finally read Gideon the Ninth about a month or so ago, didn’t love it… but remain interested enough to see what happens next. I intend to keep going in 2023.

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers:

Status: Making progress! I’m currently on the 2nd book, and really enjoying it! I intend to keep going with the series, probably via audiobook.

Patternist series by Octavia Butler:

Status: Nope. As much as I’d love to read more Octavia Butler, I just never found myself motivated to start this series. I’d say that these books will remain on my maybe/someday shelf, but I don’t think I’m going to put them on my 2023 series list.

The Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows:

Status: Baby steps. I read the first book in the series, and loved it! Just haven’t had time to continue yet, but I absolutely intend to.

The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski:

Status: One and done (for now). My goal had been to make lots of progress in this series — maybe even finish it? I read one more book, The Time of Contempt, and even though I still have four more left to read (and actually own copies of them all), I feel pretty done at this point. Maybe after the next season drops on Netflix, I’ll feel inspired to continue with the books… but as of now, I doubt it.

That’s it for my 2022 series reading. How about you?

Did you read any series in 2022? Any particular favorites?

Check back in January, when I’ll set a new batch of series reading goals for the new year.

My Favorite Books of 2022

Well, friends, here we are at the end of December, and that means it’s time for everyone, everywhere to share their “Best Of” lists for 2022!

I loved so many of the books I read this past year, but some really and truly stood out. Some are 2022 new releases, some are books from earlier years that just came my way in 2022, and some are books that I’ve had on my shelves but only now got around to reading.

Here is a totally subjective list of the books I loved best. (For purposes of this post, I’m excluding rereads, even though there were a few of these that were 5-star reads)

First, I’ll highlight my top 5: The five books that were special reading experiences in a variety of ways — books that introduced me to new worlds or experiences, were beautifully written, and/or delivered an emotional punch that has stayed with me ever since.

  • Fairy Tale by Stephen King: Masterful storytelling (and a very good dog) made this a delightful read.
  • True Biz by Sara Novic: This book introduced me to a world I knew little about — informative, but also just a really great story.
  • Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey: What can I say about a series finale that absolutely pays off with a satisfying conclusion? It brought me to tears, astonished me, and yet ended in a way that truly fit the characters and overall themes. What a series!
  • Lute by Jennifer Thorne: Haunting and beautifully written.
  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin: I never would have expected to enjoy (much less love) a novel about video game designers. Absolutely one of the best new releases of 2022.

But these are by no means the only great books I read this past year! According to Goodreads, I gave 5-star ratings to 45 books in 2022. Here’s the rest of my favorites — not all 45 by any means, but the books I consider the best of the best:

Beyond these, there were a whole bunch of other books that I really loved too, so all in all, I’d say this was a great year for reading!

What were your favorite books of 2022? Do we have any in common?

Wishing all of us a happy and healthy 2023, filled with amazing books!

All the books I meant to read – 2022 edition

It’s time for my annual end-of-year tradition — all the books I meant to read! Here’s a look back at all the books I purchased in 2022, but just didn’t get around to reading for one reason or another.

And… oops… I did manage to order a few more that are set to arrive later this week, but I’ll just go ahead and consider them 2023 purchases!

When it comes to physical books, I seem to have improved my track record during this past year! I bought fewer hard copies overall, and of the ones I did buy, I actually read quite a few (so they’re not included in this post).

In past years, this round-up post only included physical books (hardcovers and paperbacks), but I thought it might be fun (or embarrassing or daunting or overwhelming…) to also include all the e-books I added to my Kindle library but haven’t read yet.

Here’s a salute to my unread books of 2022!

First, the hardcovers and paperbacks:

And now, the Kindle books purchased in 2022. (In my defense, I tend to grab books I’m interested in when I see a good price drop… so most of these were deals that I snatched up, not necessarily books that I intended to read immediately and then just didn’t get to). My 2022 e-books:

Save

So, if I prioritized reading all of these 2022 book purchases in 2023… that would take up most of the year! I’ll give it a fair shot — and will try to stick to just buying the books I know I’ll read right away.

Have you read (and loved) any of my 2022 “meant-to-read” books? Please let me know if you see any you’d consider best of the bunch!

Onward to 2023! Happy New Year!Save

My Classics Club Spin book for winter 2022/2023 will be…

Earlier this week, I shared a post with my list of books for the newest Classics Club Spin challenge (see it here), and today, this spin’s number was announced. (For those keeping track, it’s CC Spin #32, and for me personally, #4!)

Hosted by The Classics Club blog, the Classics Club Spin is a reading adventure where participants come up with a list of classics they’d like to read, number them 1 to 20, and then read the book that corresponds to the “spin” number that comes up.

For CCSpin #32, the lucky number is:

And that means I’ll be reading:

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (published 1913)

Synopsis:

O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather’s first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather’s heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-blasted prairie of Hanover, Nebraska, as a girl and grows up to make it a prosperous farm. But this archetypal success story is darkened by loss, and Alexandra’s devotion to the land may come at the cost of love itself.

At once a sophisticated pastoral and a prototype for later feminist novels, O Pioneers! is a work in which triumph is inextricably enmeshed with tragedy, a story of people who do not claim a land so much as they submit to it and, in the process, become greater than they were.

I’m excited for this one! I read My Antonia many years ago, but haven’t read anything else by Willa Cather, and I actually have a few of her books on my (never-ending) to-read list.

O Pioneers! is relatively short (just 159 pages), so I may wait until early January to get started. The target date for finishing is January 29th, 2023, so I should be in really good shape.

It turns out that this is my third American classic in a row for my CCSpin books. That’s okay… but I may need to revise my list to try to broaden the selections a bit more before the next spin comes along.

What do you think of my newest spin book?

Here’s my list of 20 titles for Classics Club Spin #32:

  1. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  5. Peony by Pearl Buck
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  8. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  12. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  13. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  14. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  15. Passing by Nella Larsen
  16. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  17. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
  18. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  19. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Porter

My previous Classics Club Spin books:

Are you participating in this Classics Club Spin? If so, what book will you be reading?

Getting ready for the Winter 2022/2023 Classics Club Spin!

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!

Hosted by The Classics Club blog, the Classics Club Spin is a reading adventure where participants come up with a list of classics they’d like to read, number them 1 to 20, and then read the book that correponds to the “spin” number that comes up. This will be my 4th time participating — although for The Classics Club, it’s spin #32!

Here are the dates and guidelines from the host blog:

On Sunday 11th, December, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 29th January, 2023.

We’ll check in here on Sunday the 29th January, 2023 to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

What’s Next?

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Sunday, 11th December.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20. 
  • Read that book by 29th January, 2023.

I’ve had so much fun with my previous CCSpin experiences, so of course I’m going to do it again! I’m going back to my list from last time, and other than replacing the book I just read, I’m going to leave the rest of my list as is. I’d be happy to read any of these!

And now for the good stuff…

Here’s my list of 20 classics for my 4th Classics Club Spin:

  1. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  5. Peony by Pearl Buck
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  8. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  12. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  13. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  14. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  15. Passing by Nella Larsen
  16. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  17. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
  18. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  19. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Porter

Wish me luck! I’ll post again on Sunday once the spin results are announced!

My previous Classics Club spins:

Spring 2022 (CCSpin29): The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
Summer 2022 (CCSpin30): Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Fall 2022 (CCSpin31): A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

My Classics Club Spin book for fall 2022 will be…

Earlier this week, I shared a post with my list of books for the newest Classics Club Spin challenge (see it here), and today, this spin’s number was announced. (For those keeping track, it’s CC Spin #31, and for me personally, #3!)

Hosted by The Classics Club blog, the Classics Club Spin is a reading adventure where participants come up with a list of classics they’d like to read, number them 1 to 20, and then read the book that corresponds to the “spin” number that comes up.

For CCSpin #31, the lucky number is:

And that means I’ll be reading:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (published 1889)

Synopsis:

One of the greatest satires in American literature, Mark Twain’s ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ begins when Hank Morgan, a skilled mechanic in a nineteenth-century New England arms factory, is struck on the head during a quarrel and awakens to find himself among the knights and magicians of King Arthur’s Camelot. The ‘Yankee’ vows brashly to “boss the whole country inside of three weeks” and embarks on an ambitious plan to modernize Camelot with 19th c. industrial inventions like electricity and gunfire. It isn’t long before all hell breaks loose!

Written in 1889, Mark ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ is one of literature’s first genre mash-ups and one of the first works to feature time travel. It is one of the best known Twain stories, and also one of his most unique. Twain uses the work to launch a social commentary on contemporary society, a thinly veiled critique of the contemporary times despite the Old World setting.

While the dark pessimism that would fully blossom in Twain’s later works can be discerned in ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, ‘ the novel will nevertheless be remembered primarily for its wild leaps of imagination, brilliant wit, and entertaining storytelling.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve read anything by Mark Twain — probably going back to reading Tom Sawyer in middle school — but I’m excited for this one! I’m assuming this will be a lighter read relative to some of the other classics on my list, although it does sound like there are some heavier themes as well as the playful elements.

I’ve been trying to figure out how long this book is, but because it’s public domain and there are so many versions published, I’m seeing everything from 271 pages to 480 for an illustrated edition!

For my own reading adventure, I’ll be using the Serial Reader app, which has this book available in 54 installments. If I start now, reading one installment per day would push me past the October 30th deadline, but if I double up at least some of the time, I’ll make it!

Wish me luck!

Here’s my list of 20 titles for Classics Club Spin #31:

  1. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
  3. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  5. Peony by Pearl Buck
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  8. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  12. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  13. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  14. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  15. Passing by Nella Larsen
  16. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  17. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
  18. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  19. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Porter

My previous Classics Club Spin books:

Are you participating in this Classics Club Spin? If so, what book will you be reading?

Getting ready for the Fall 2022 Classics Club Spin!

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin, and I can’t wait!

Hosted by The Classics Club blog, the Classics Club Spin is a reading adventure where participants come up with a list of classics they’d like to read, number them 1 to 20, and then read the book that correponds to the “spin” number that comes up. This will be my 3rd time participating — although for The Classics Club, it’s spin #31!

Here are the dates and guidelines from the host blog:

On Sunday 18th, September, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 30th October, 2022.

We’ll check in here on Sunday the 30th October, 2022 to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

What’s Next?

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Sunday, 18th September.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20. 
  • Read that book by 30th October, 2022.

I’ve had so much fun with my previous CCSpin experiences, so of course I’m going to do it again! I’m going back to my list from last time, and other than replacing the book I just read, I’m going to leave the rest of my list as is. I’d be happy to read any of these!

And now for the good stuff…

Here’s my list of 20 classics for my 3rd Classics Club Spin:

  1. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
  3. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  5. Peony by Pearl Buck
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  8. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  12. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  13. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  14. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  15. Passing by Nella Larsen
  16. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  17. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
  18. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  19. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Porter

Wish me luck! I’ll post again on Sunday once the spin results are announced!

My previous Classics Club spins:

Spring 2022 (CCSpin29): The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
Summer 2022 (CCSpin30): Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Did you hear the one about the tree surgeon?

Image via Pixabay

A tree surgeon got stood up on a date…

No, this isn’t the start of a joke — it’s part of the premise of the new audiobook I just started (The No-Show by Beth O’Leary). And while the book itself seems like it’s going to be really enjoyable, what has struck me the most forcefully so far is the thought:

Wow! I’ve never read a book about a tree surgeon before!

Side note: If you’re wondering why the image above is of a male tree surgeon… it’s because I couldn’t find an images of women doing this work!

And that got me thinking about the women of contemporary romances and their jobs. There are plenty I’ve read where the main character’s work falls into the generic something-or-other-in-an-office variety (marketing seems to be an especially popular catch-all for characters, as does publishing, especially entry-level jobs for those secretly-aspiring-to-be-writers young professionals).

Other super common jobs in contemporary romance include:

  • Book store owners/managers/booksellers
  • Bakers/chefs/restaurant owners
  • Writers/bloggers
  • Teachers
  • Librarians
  • Doctors/medical students

But there are also some characters with more eye-popping job descriptions, so I thought I’d highlight a few here:

  • Tree surgeon (The No-Show by Beth O’Leary)
  • Knitting store manager (Real Men Don’t Knit by Kwana Jackson)
  • Stamp collage artist (Home Fires by Luanne Rice)
  • Firefighter (Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center)
  • Geologist (Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade)
  • Escape room manager (Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond)
  • Astrologist (okay, she’s an astrology blogger, but still…) (Written In the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur)
  • Treasure hunt tour guide (Something Wilder by Christina Lauren)
  • Bodyguard (ummm, I mean Executive Protection professional) (The Bodyguard by Katherine Center)
  • Calligrapher/lettering specialist (Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
  • Porn star/sex educator (The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan)

What are the most unusual jobs you’ve come across for women in romance fiction?

Can you beat a tree surgeon???